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More funds granted for Athena building restoration

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Renovation on Athena's historical buildings

Downtown Athena has two ongoing renovation projects including the Stahl building (the white building with PGG in red letters) and the historic Gem Theater. Both originally built as breweries in the 1900s, they are now being restored for the community to use and enjoy.

ATHENA — A $30,000 grant was recently awarded to the Athena Mainstreet Association to install two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms in the historical Stahl building on Main Street.

The funding comes from the F.J. Hodecker Family Fund, Carl J. and Alma Johnson Fund and Betty Lou Roberts Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, according to an announcement this week.

The 9,000-square-foot building in downtown Athena was purchased in 2016 from the Pendleton Grain Growers by the Mainstreet Association.

It will be divided into multiple uses, but a large portion of the building will be for a community and event center. Other parts of the building will be for the Athena Mainstreet Association’s home office, a shared workspace for others in the community, and a business, said Association President April Vorhauer-Flatt.

Funding will cover the costs of professional labor and hardware for bathrooms that will make the building accessible to everyone in the community, Vorhauer-Flatt said.

More than $100 million in grants and scholarships support Oregonians annually through the Oregon Community Foundation, according to the release.

This May, the Athena Mainstreet Association received a $172,000 grant from Oregon Heritage Commission to pay for an oil furnace malfunction cleanup, electrical upgrades and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, Vorhauer-Flatt said.

“This has been a really great year for us to get the funding that’ll make these projects be able to be completed,” she said.

The Mainstreet Association hopes to make the space usable to the community in one to two years, the president said.

“Were really excited to have a space for the community that really feels like it belongs to everybody in the community. When this building was purchased, we actually received about 15 donations from local families of $1,000,” Vorhauer-Flatt said.

A hardware store occupied the building previously.

“That was a store I was in everyday. We were all sick to our stomachs when it closed. We didn’t want it to be turned into a warehouse,” Rob McIntyre, who was one of the thousand-dollar donors, said.

He and his wife were a part of the initial process of purchasing the building with other community members for the Mainstreet Association, McIntyre said.

McIntyre is working on the 15-year renovation of the Gem Theater next to the Stahl building. These two buildings were competing breweries in the early 1900s, he said.

“It’s an anchor building, right on the main intersection … It is viable for Main Street,” he said.

“Even though the Mainstreet Association owns the title to the building, it really feels like a community-owned building.his whole process has been a grassroots effort from the people of Athena, so to serve them the best we can and really make sure it is inclusive place that it is accessible is really important to the mission,” Vorhauer-Flatt said.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.